20 Jan 2022 --- Swedish packaging innovator Pulpac - which invented and patented its Dry Molded Fiber (DMF) technique in a bid to maximize the use of paper or cellulose as a viable, scalable and globally available material - has combined the in-line recycling of un-molded materials and sustainable barrier additives to improve efficiency in personal care products.
DMF is a manufacturing technology designed for the circular economy, which uses renewable pulp and cellulose resources to produce low cost, high performance, fiber-based packaging and single-use products. DMF provides up to 80-90% lower carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint at a similar cost to plastic.
To maximize efficiency, Pulpac’s DMF packaging material uses an in-line recycling system that returns any residual material with additives back into the process so that it can then be combined with additional input material. In-line recycling refers to pressing the “skeleton” material left from the fiber web, which is then recycled back into the process to avoid wastage.
Click to EnlargePulpac’s R&D has led to a number of patents being granted. Source: PulpacCommenting on what led Pulpac to explore in-line recycling, Chief Communications Officer Ann Dynehäll explains that this hinged on: “The importance of not wasting material, to make it as sustainable and economical as possible.”
Pulpac found that its in-line recycling ensured more than 99% usage of fiber input materials during production tests to optimize barrier additives. The recirculation part of the process also reinforced the barrier properties of the end-products. As a result, the manufacturer concluded that the in-recycling method has the potential to considerably boost production efficiency and conserve material consumption, while producing superior products compared to conventional fiber molding.
“This is a breakthrough with great potential to increase the already highly competitive unit economics in DMF by making better products with less input materials,” says Sebastian Roos, Chief Technology Officer at Pulpac. “It is an inspiring result by our research and development (R&D) team for the technology as Pulpac continues its industrialization of DMF.”
The results of its tests demonstrated a rise and reinforcement in specific barrier properties with only limited impact on mechanical strength. Subsequently, Pulpac ascertained that this would lead to increased production efficiency with lower energy and material usage. The company protected one of its important discoveries in a pending patent application.
In-line recycling positively impacts beauty packaging and the sustainable disposal of waste in all kinds of application areas. “No waste is good for planet and business,” Dynehäll details. To further build upon its findings, Dynehäll relays that Pulpac will now engage in “continued R&D and industrialization and scale up to replace as much single-use plastics as fast as possible”.
Eyeing up global expansion
Pulpac has announced it has received further patent grants for its cellulose forming technology that enables the replacement of single-use plastics with competitive fiber-based alternatives. Pulpac’s original patent, which relates to a method, apparatus and product where air-formed cellulose is pressed in a forming mold within given temperature and pressure intervals, has recently been granted in Colombia. The patent has also been granted in numerous global markets including China, Europe, the US, Japan and Russia.
In addition, a new patent that relates to hole punching in DMF products has now been granted in its domestic base, Sweden. The patent relates to a system and method for dry forming a three-dimensional cellulose product using Pulpac’s unique DMF technology. The patent specifically focuses on a molding feature that allows for punching one or more holes in the product when it is in the forming mold.
“The world needs to move away from plastics, and we will continue to spearhead innovation and grow the DMF patent portfolio to support the urgent transition to fiber-based packaging,” says Peter Ekwall, IP Manager at Pulpac. “With strong and global IP, we advance our licensee’s position and the incentive to drive change for a better future.”
Pulpac details that its DMF technology consumes less energy and water than traditional fiber forming methods and significantly lowers CO2, while enabling high-speed production of fiber-based packaging.
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Journalist